Callista

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CALLISTA

PART I

. |  .|.   |  |.  |  |  .|..

I’m back in the magical library, where I could enter any book I opened. I do hope I choose a nice fiction book this time. The last three books I chose weren’t exactly that good.

I let my eyes scan the different books with their varying covers, none ever giving clue as to what lay inside. A leather bound book caught my eyes, and I reached up to pull it. I opened the thick heavy book; too late did I realize my mistake. The mysterious light had already appeared when I realized that I had opened the book at about a third of it.

 . |  .|.   |  |.  |  |  .|..

I was in a training room of some sort. There were three kids and a teen, all of them holding wooden swords. The teen, a boy of about fourteen, was sparring with an experienced swordsman, I could tell. The oldest of the three kids, about eleven or so, was taking a break. Two servants were standing beside her, one fanning her and the other handing her water. The other two kids were fighting, both trying to best the other.

Somewhere nearby, a pair of big heavy doors slammed shut, and everything turned black.

 .    . .       .        . ..

It was dark, so I couldn’t see much. There was a hurried knock on the door before it opened; in came a girl wearing a simple tunic.

By the light from outside, I could see that I was in an impressive room. I could not fully appreciate the beauty of it, however, because my curiosity was held by the girl sleeping on the soft bed, and the other girl trying to wake her up.

“My lady, wake up! Please, you have to get up,” the girl, who I now knew was a servant, was insisting.

The sleeping girl grumbled, turned her back on the servant, and went right back to sleep.

I settled on a chair nearby and watched the two of them.

“Please, Princess, you have to get up. Princess Callista, there’s been an attack!”

Princess Callista jumped off her bed so suddenly that the servant girl stumbled back a step and knocked something down to the floor.

What? What did you say?” asked the princess.

“There’s an attack, and the king says you have to get away.”

“No. I’m staying here, Erin.”

“But, Princess, I’ve been ordered to get you to your mother’s sitting room. From there a knight will take you and your mother and the young Prince Aidan away.”

“I’m staying,” the princess said stubbornly. She turned to Erin and asked for help in putting on her armor. Erin hesitated at first, but she helped Callista.

An armor-clad man rushed into the room and looked at the princess. “Callista! You’re still here?” asked the man – no, not a man, just a boy. Erin started to curtsey, but he told her not to bother.

“Sage?”

“Yes,” the guy answered, taking off his helmet. The expression he wore was grave.

“What happened?” Callista asked, her voice full of concern.

“Father’s dead.”

What?

“Father—”

“No, no; I heard you the first time. But… Father, dead?” Callista repeated.

“Yes. Now get out of here!”

“I’m staying,” Callista announced.

“I’m a prince; I’m ord—”

“And I’m a princess,” Callista argued.

“I’m older,” Sage shot back. “I’m ordering you to get to safety.”

“There is no way you can just order me around!”

“Fine,” said the prince.

Callista, with a triumphant smile on her face, turned to Erin. “See? I can stay.”

Erin just nodded.

“You know where you should go?” asked Sage.

“Of course! We’ve been there lots of times,” answered Callista.

Sage nodded. “Birch needs me,” he said before leaving.

Callista turned to Erin. “Take my pack – you know the one? Take it and go with Queen Elen. Go!” She gave Erin a little shove.

“Hey, princess,”  I called to Callista.

She didn’t seem to hear me, or if she did, she ignored me. Ouch.

She looked at a painting, and I looked as well. It depicted a happy family – the royal family. There was the king, his eyes shining with suppressed laughter. To his left, the queen sat, her face radiating love. Was that Queen Elen?

And there were five children. The oldest, almost a young man, stood at the king’s right. At the queen’s left stood a young lady, her eyes showing hints of wisdom beyond her years. In front of the heir, a young prince stood, a mischievous smile on his face. On the king’s lap sat a princess, prettier than her older sister. And lastly, on the queen’s lap sat the youngest, merely a toddler.

On my second look, I recognized the younger prince and princess. They were Sage and Callista. So the queen must be Queen Elen. Who’s Birch?

. |  .|.   |  |.  |  |  .|..

Nobody seemed to notice me, and that was the way I preferred. I followed the princess to a tower, her quiver slung on her back, her bow in her hand. People bowed to her, but she only kept her eyes straight ahead.

There were already archers in the tower, shooting off the invaders, who seemed to come from nowhere. Oh wait – they came out of the ground.

“Tunnels?” Callista asked no one in particular.

“Yes, my lady,” answered some random archer near her.

“Can’t we collapse them?” Callista asked.

“The others are already trying to, Your Highness.”

I looked at the people fighting on the ground. They looked so small, and yet every minute, they were causing part of the land to turn dark red.

A shadow passed over them, and I looked up to see what caused it.

“Hey, that’s a dragon!” I exclaimed.

The dragon swooped down and breathed fire on the enemies who just came out of the tunnel. On the way up, it took some of them on its claws.

I took my eyes off the battleground and turned to watch the archers. They aimed quickly and calmly – of course – shooting death from their hands. Callista’s arrows were almost spent, but people kept on handing them some more, making sure they weren’t entirely out of shots.

From above, I heard Sage’s voice. “Callista, here!”

He was riding a bronze dragon; he was just one of the people on dragons. How come I didn’t notice them before?

With the help of some servants, Callista climbed and sat behind her brother on the dragon. Someone handed her more arrows, and then the dragon flew off, though not before I was able to hitch a ride as well.

The ride was amazing! It wasn’t exactly smooth, but it felt great. With every upward stroke of the dragon’s wings, we fell a bit, and with every downward stroke, we rose.

Princess Callista, obviously very used to flying on the dragon’s back, notched an arrow and let it loose. I saw one enemy fall to his knees and then do a faceplant on the ground.

Sage directed the dragon. It was only then that I noticed the reins, but Sage never used them. Maybe he felt it was enough to guide the dragon with – I dunno – his mind?

The dragon took a sudden turn, and I instinctively held on to Callista, sitting between Sage and me, to avoid falling off.

Callista shivered, making her lose her aim. “What was that?” she asked.

“It’s me,” I admitted. “Sorry.”

“What was what?” Sage asked.

Didn’t they notice me?

“Nothing. Don’t mind me,” Callista said as she shot another enemy.

“Tell me when you’re out of arrows. Then I’m off, and you direct my dragon.”

“All right.”

Just a few minutes later Callista told Sage she had no arrows left. He instructed his dragon to dive and breathe fire. He slipped off when it did so.

Callista used the reins. She helped wherever she could by torching the enemies. In the center of the fighting she spotted someone didn’t know.

That someone was fighting a high-ranked enemy, so he must have a high rank too – wasn’t that how it always worked in stories? Just as it looked like Callista’s ally was winning another guy – an enemy – ran to the two, unnoticed by Callista’s ally.

“Look out!” I shouted.

The guy didn’t look out. The enemy behind him raised his sword and plunged it into him. The good guy fell to his knees.

“Birch! No!” Callista cried.

… to be continued

Weekly Writing Challenge: Cliffhanger

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